Electricity

Real Preparedness:  Understanding the Significance of Shutting Off Utilities

shutting off utilities

Emergencies can happen at any time, and being prepared can make all the difference in keeping you and your family safe. One crucial aspect of emergency preparedness is knowing how to turn off your home power, gas and electricity during an emergency. Turning off your home utilities can prevent further damage and keep you and your family safe.  It’s important that everyone of your family members who is capable, understand when and how to do turn off the utilities. 

Benefits of Turning Off Utilities in an Emergency

Shutting off water, gas and electricity during an emergency can prevent further damage to your home and keep you and your family safe. For example, turning off the water supply can prevent flooding in case of a burst pipe or a natural disaster like a hurricane or flood. Turning off the gas supply can prevent fires or explosions caused by gas leaks. Turning off the electricity supply can prevent electrocution or fires caused by electrical faults.

Shutting off utilities can also help emergency responders do their job more effectively. For example, if there is a fire in your home, turning off the gas supply can prevent the fire from spreading.

Knowing When to Shut Off Your Utilities

Knowing when to shut off your home’s utilities is crucial for emergency preparedness. There are several scenarios that may require shutting off utilities, such as natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, gas leaks, electrical faults, and burst pipes.

In an emergency situation, it is advisable to turn off the electricity to avoid any further complications from electrical hazards. Turning off the electricity does not always guarantee safety, but it does eliminate the likelihood that something else will happen, such as a fire breaking out or an electric current that could potentially cause bodily harm.

During Hurricane Harvey, as our neighborhood was starting to really flood, the power company turned off the electricity to the whole neighborhood.  The electrical lines coming into the neighborhood come through overhead lines.  But the lines in the neighborhood are in the ground.  Water and electricity don’t mix!  The electric company did this to prevent further damage to the neighborhood grid.  It was an inconvenience, but because of it, power was able to come back on a lot sooner.

One reason you would want to shutdown the gas is if you hear a hissing sound and smell of natural gas.  You would also want to do this if there is a fire in your home.  Of course, the first priority is getting everyone to safety.

The most likely reason you would want to turn off the water is if there was a leak.  During Winter Storm Uri, one of my church members checked on an elderly neighbor who was cold and trying to keep warm.  However, a water broke in her home and the water was just pouring in.  She didn’t know what to do and was probably in shock!

It’s essential to be aware of the signs that indicate a problem with your utilities and move fast.  Doing so in some cases can mean the difference between life and death.  At the very least, it can mean the difference between a small clean-up or a huge bill for remediation.

How to Shut Off Your Home’s Utilities

Knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities is essential for emergency preparedness. Here is a step-by-step guide for shutting off water, gas, and electricity:

Water Shutoff
1. Locate the main water valve.  You should identify this main meter before you need to shut off the water!
2. Turn the valve clockwise until it stops.
3. Open all faucets to drain any remaining water.

Turning Off Your Gas:
1. Locate the gas meter.
2. Turn the valve on the meter 90 degrees so that it is perpendicular to the pipe.
3. Do not turn on the gas until the gas company or a professional has inspected your system.

Shutting Off Electricity:
1. Locate the main circuit breaker box.
2. Turn off all circuit breakers.
3. If you cannot access the circuit breaker box safely, call an electrician.

Station the Tools Necessary

The last thing you want to happen in an emergency situation is to not be able to find the tools you need to shut off gas or water.  In this case, I recommend stationing some tools that are dedicated to this purpose.

For water, you should have a Water Meter Key or Water Meter T Wrench.  This is a long wrench, about 22-22 inches long that allows you to turn off the water without having to get your hand inside the meter itself.  This because sometimes it just looks nasty down there and a long T Wrench is hard to miss.

For gas, you can simply use a pipe wrench or a channel locks.  Again, I would recommend these tools be dedicated for this task and placed somewhere that everyone knows where they are and agree not to use them for anything else.  Anyone who has kids knows what I’m talking about.

There is an all-in-one wrench that you might consider that will do both water and gas.  The only reason I wouldn’t consider it is because my water meter housing is deep and spiders! 

You don’t need anything special to turn off electricity. You just need to know how to flip the switch!

This is my water meter. I didn’t realize how many leaves were in it. I was just barely able to see the turn off valve. It might be a good idea to check your meter from time to time and clean it up.

Preparing by Being Proactive

Some preppers might want to be proactive in shutting off utilities.  One reason you might want to do this is if you are going on a trip and you know bad weather is heading your way.  There are many stories of people coming back to their homes after Winter Storm Uri to see water pouring out from underneath their doors. 

Another reason to shutoff your utilities is for risk eversion.  When the temperatures were expected to drop during Christmas 2022 below freezing for a few days, many people chose to turn off the water and drain their pipes instead of running the risk of a busted pipe. 

The Training Piece

One of the most important things you can do is to train everyone in your household where the gas shutoff valve and water meter is located and how to use the tools to turn them off in an emergency!  You should stress how to do this and why.  You might not always be around.  It might fall to your spouse or kids to accomplish turning off your utilities in an emergency.

Check Out the Life Saving Skills Toolkit from Ready.gov.

The Importance of Being Prepared for Emergencies

In conclusion, being prepared means some of the simple things like knowing when to turn off your utilities.  This is essential to keeping you and your family safe during emergencies or just to make life easier. Turning off your home utilities during emergencies can prevent further damage and a lot of pain in heartache in dealing with insurance and contractors. 

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How to Prepare for an Extended Power Outage

Extended Power Ourage

 

An extended power outage is not an uncommon occurrence, especially during the stormy season. All it takes is one bolt of lightning or downed tree to crash into a power line and plunge your entire neighborhood—or even your entire city—into complete darkness. Power is usually restored within a matter of minutes. But what if your power is out for hours, days or weeks?

It’s not an unlikely scenario. The United States’ electrical grid is old, fragile and woefully underfunded. Storms and natural disasters continually threaten our aging grid, some of which can potentially result in blackouts that leave Americans without power for weeks.

A little preparedness can go a long way in lessening the impact of an extended power outage on you and your family. Below, here are a few things you can do to better prepare for a power outage.

Make Your Food Last

Food spoilage is often a big concern during and after an extended power outage, and rightfully so. No one wants to get sent to the emergency room for food poisoning. In addition to stocking your pantry full of shelf-stable foods, it’s important to know how to keep perishable food cold in the case of a power outage.

  • Avoid Opening the Refrigerator/Freezer Door – Try to limit how much you open the refrigerator/freezer door. Each time you open the door, you’re letting out precious cold air and, thereby, reducing the storage time of your perishable food.
  • Know the Safety Threshold – A packed refrigerator can remain at a safe temperature for about four hours. A packed freezer can maintain a safe temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Keep a Spare Cooler – If you’re coming up on four hours, transfer your perishable food items to a couple of hard coolers packed with ice. Be sure to read up on how to pack a cooler properly to keep your items cooler for as long as possible.
  • Consider Using Dry Ice – Using dry ice in your cooler can also be beneficial in the case of an extended power outage. Dry ice (which is simply frozen carbon dioxide) is extremely cold and can keep your perishable foods colder for longer in an emergency. If you don’t know how to use dry ice in a cooler, don’t worry—it’s not complicated. Just be sure to handle dry ice with care (always use gloves) and use a cooler that is considered dry ice compatible.

 

Read: The UBER Guide to DIY Food Storage with Mylar Bags, O2 Absorbers and Buckets!

 

Procure Safe Drinking Water

You always need some bottled water in your preps!

When the power goes out, your water purification system may be impacted. This largely depends on where you get your water. If you have city water, you’ll probably have water until the city water tower runs out. Private wells, on the other hand, require electricity to work properly.

  • Stock Up on Bottled Water – No matter where you get your water from, it’s critical to have an emergency water supply ready. You should store at least one gallon of water per day for every person and pet in your household. Aim for a two-week supply for everyone.
  • Have an Emergency Water Source – In the case of an extended power outage, you may need to source your water from nature. To ensure that your water is safe to drink, consider keeping water purification tablets and unscented liquid chlorine bleach in the house.
  • Do Not Drink Carbonated/Caffeinated/Alcoholic Beverages – Don’t count these beverages as part of your water supply! Alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages will dehydrate your body faster and increase the need for regular drinking water.

Invest in Emergency Lighting

Once a power outage occurs, you’ll be left in the dark. The last thing you want to do is scramble through a dark house for a flashlight that doesn’t even work. Having multiple sources of emergency lighting is crucial to finding your way around for however long the power outage lasts.

  • Flashlights – Pick up some quality flashlights that are made to last and store them in different areas of your house. This way, you’ll never be far from a light source when the power goes out.
  • Glow Sticks – Glow sticks are a good source of temporary light for your home. Added bonus: the kids will love them.
  • Solar Lights – In the case of a prolonged outage, you can bring your outdoor solar yard lights inside to light your home. Just remember to put them back outside during the day so they can recharge.
  • Propane Lantern – Although it may be an old school lighting option, a propane lantern is a reliable source of light that you can use for any emergency.

Read: Lights Out! NW Houston Edition: Lessons for Non-Preppers!

 

Build a Blackout Bag

You’ve probably heard about a bug out bag before, but what about a blackout bag? It’s a similar concept. A blackout bag is simply an emergency kit stocked with items you’ll need in the event of an extended power outage. Although your kit should be personalized to suit your needs, there are a few essential items that we recommend stocking in your blackout bag.

  • Flashlight – You should have several flashlights, one of which is stored in your blackout bag. Don’t forget batteries!
  • Headlamp – Consider adding a quality headlamp to your blackout kit. It will be useful for when you’re rummaging around in the dark and need to use both hands.
  • Portable Phone Charger – If your phone wasn’t fully charged before the power outage, you’ll be glad to have a portable phone charger to keep your cell phone alive.
  • A Fan/Mister – Keep in mind that most power outages occur during the hot, humid months. If you live in the South, a fan/mister will help keep you cool when the AC stops working.
  • Hand Warmers – Although power outages are more common in the summer, they can also happen in the winter. In addition to blankets and sleeping bags, make sure that you have enough hand warmers for everyone in your family.
  • Medical Supplies – A first aid kit is a must-have for any blackout bag. If you or a family member is taking medications, consider stocking a few extra medications to get you through an extended power outage.
  • Emergency Radio – An emergency radio is one of those items that you buy while hoping you’ll never need to use it. But, in case you find yourself in a crazy storm, an emergency radio can potentially save your life by giving you invaluable weather updates and other emergency alerts.
  • Emergency Generator – OK, so you can’t exactly fit an emergency generator into a bag, but it’s something you may want to consider having in case the power goes out. A standby generator can supply emergency power to keep your household operating normally until electricity returns. Just remember to keep it away from the house to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

 

Read: The Bugout Formula – If You Have to Ask Yourself, It’s Already Too Late!

 

Emergency Outdoor Lights
Solar powered landscape lights work well for emergency backup lighting.

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

While most power outages are nothing more than a minor inconvenience, prolonged blackouts can prove deadly. A little preparedness can do more than just reduce the impact of a power outage on your family. It can potentially save lives.

 

Author: Kyle Shaw is an avid outdoors man who has spent the last 4 years traveling and backpacking around the world. His favorite activities are fly fishing, hiking and snowboarding in these new places. Due to the current circumstances he has returned to his home base, Jackson Hole and has begun blogging about his experiences. 

 

An Extended Power Ourage

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Grid Down – What Does It Really Look Like

There are many things that Preppers prepare for.  One major emergency would be the grid going down.  Many people are unaware of what a prolonged grid-down scenario would look like.  Are you prepared?

 

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Remember, there is a HUGE selection of great preparedness content at Prepper Website!

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Grid Down Concerns

A grid down situation can be a very stressful situation.  What should you consider when the grid goes down?

 

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Grid Down Nightmare

Our electrical grid is very fragile.  And if it goes, it will cause a cascading effect into many areas of modern society.  Many of the things that most people take for granted will be gone.  Will you be ready?

Article:

 

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Will You Lose Your Food

When the grid goes down, one of the many things you will want to deal with is all the stuff in your refrigerator and freezer.  Your food in there can wind up costing you hundreds of dollars.  And although you want to save or eat as much as you can, you need to be aware of dangers that can potentially arise.

Article:

 

Mentioned in this Episode: 

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Will You Lose Your Food Read More »

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